Body apparently was in state pool 3 days

Mass. shuts 30 facilities after death in Fall River

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / June 30, 2011

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The body of a 36-year-old woman was pulled from a state-run pool in Fall River Tuesday night, apparently after being in the water since Sunday, prompting the temporary closure of all state-operated deep-water pools in Massachusetts while officials investigate, authorities said.

It was not clear yesterday if any swimmers noticed the woman’s body between Sunday and Tuesday. The Herald News, a local newspaper, ran a photo in Tuesday’s paper showing swimmers in the water on Monday.

Law enforcement officials identified the woman as Marie Joseph of Fall River.

Fall River police Lieutenant Roger LaFleur said in a statement that officers went to Vietnam Veterans Memorial Swimming Pool at Lafayette Park at about 10 p.m. Tuesday and pulled Joseph from the water. She was taken to a hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

Edward M. Lambert Jr. — commissioner of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which operates the pool — said in a statement yesterday that all 30 of the agency’s deep-water pools will close for 24 to 48 hours while investigators review safety procedures.

High temperatures around the state will range from the low 70s to the low 80s today and tomorrow, according to the National Weather Service in Taunton.

Gregg Miliote, a spokesman for the Bristol district attorney’s office, said in a phone interview that people walking by the pool late Tuesday night spotted Joseph’s body floating in the water.

Fall River Police Chief Daniel Racine said during a news conference yesterday that a 9-year-old boy that Joseph was watching at the pool on Sunday told police she had an accident on a water slide.

The boy stated that “Marie unexpectedly slid down the slide landing on top of him,’’ Racine said.

“He further stated he believed Marie went under the water and did not surface.’’

Bristol District Attorney C. Samuel Sutter, who was also at the press conference yesterday, said: “We’re not certain about anything, other than the fact that we have a death and that this person was at the pool, and what took place with respect to the slide. Everything beyond that is absolutely under investigation.

“We do have a tragic death,’’ Sutter said. “And it does appear [that] it took place Sunday afternoon at some point.’’

He said the sequence of events after Joseph went underwater and did not resurface was unclear.

“Exactly who the boy spoke to and what that person did and what happened next, this is the beginning stages of the investigation,’’ Sutter said.

Miliote said Joseph’s death did not appear to be suspicious. The cause of death is unknown pending an autopsy by the state medical examiner.

Phone numbers listed for Joseph were not in service yesterday. Numbers for her relatives could not be located.

Lambert said the entire staff of the Veterans pool has been placed on administrative leave pending the review.

He also expressed “deepest condolences’’ to Joseph’s friends and family.

“We will continue to cooperate fully with local and state law enforcement during their ongoing investigation,’’ he said.

Joseph D. Camara, a Fall River city councilor, said in a brief phone interview that while many residents use the pool regularly, a temporary closure during the review makes sense.

“I think this is a very serious matter, and I certainly don’t want the pool to be open while the [authorities] are doing their investigation,’’ Camara said. “It’s just the way it’s going to be.’’

Camara also said he felt badly for Joseph and her family.

“It’s a tragic situation,’’ said Camara.

B.J. Fisher — director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association, a Virginia-based training and certification agency for guards — said in a phone interview that finding a body in a pool days after a drowning is unusual but not unprecedented.

“A lot of times what will come into play is . . . the turbidity of the water,’’ meaning that the water is not clear, making it impossible to see the bottom of the pool.

He said he could not speak for the case in Fall River because he had not been aware of it.

“The problem with drownings is that they’re silent,’’ Fisher said. “They can happen in a matter of seconds.’’

Globe correspondent Katherine Landergan contributed to this report. Andersen can be reached at